Russian troops have been forced to withdraw from the key southern city of Kherson after the occupied region came under threat from an advancing Ukrainian counter-offensive. Kremlin military leaders announced plans for Russian soldiers to evacuate the city on Wednesday, after sabotage to supply lines had made it increasingly difficult to equip troops in Kherson. As Russian forces retreat, Vladimir Putin’s long-standing reputation as a “winner” has been compromised, placing his power over Moscow in “jeopardy”.
Former national security adviser Sir Mark Lyall-Grant warned the withdrawal from Kherson could spark doubt within Russia over President Putin’s leadership.
He told Sky News: “Within Russia, the vast majority of the Russian people are only getting one version of the truth, and that is one put out by the Kremlin.
“But, the oligarchs around President Putin will have seen the truth and I think Putin’s reputation as being a hard man and being a winner has certainly taken a huge knock.”
He added: “That puts [Vladimir Putin’s] position of power in some jeopardy in Moscow.”
Kherson was the only regional capital Russian forces had been able to capture since the invasion of Ukraine began back in February.
It became one of four occupied regions, alongside Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia, which President Putin pledged to formally annex under the Russian Federation following a series of sham referendums organised by Kremlin-installed officials.
Notably, Putin dodged the opportunity to announce the planned withdrawal from Kherson. Instead, Russia’s commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin reported the decision during a state-controlled media broadcast.
General Surovikin asserted the shift in military strategy came after Russian supply routes into Kherson became compromised, meaning the “most sensible option” was to withdraw.
Read more: Flags of freedom fly again in Kherson after Russian troops retreat